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What’s It Like to Teach PhD Seminars?

In a previous post I discussed what it's like to teach undergraduates at a research university.   Now I discuss teaching PhD seminars.  Again, these posts are from some years ago; some details are different now, but the essence is, not eternal, but at least, till now, pretty much the same. ****************************** In addition to my undergraduate classes, I teach one PhD seminar each semester.   We have a small but terrific graduate program in the Department of Religious Studies.  Students admitted each year are the cream of the crop.  Most of them come to us already with both an undergraduate and master’s degree, and we admit students (maybe 7-10 a year) in a range of fields: Islamic studies, Religion in the Americas, Asian Religions, Religion and Culture, Medieval and Early Modern Studies, and Ancient Mediterranean Religions. My area is Ancient Mediterranean Religions, which comprises religions of the Ancient Near East, Hebrew Bible, Graeco-Roman Religions (i.e., “pagan” religions), ancient Judaism, and early Christianity (which includes the New Testament).    We have probably 35 or so applicants a year [...]

2022-10-02T14:24:43-04:00October 11th, 2022|Bart's Critics, Teaching Christianity|

Did the Israelites Practice Human Sacrifice? Platinum Guest Post by Joel Scheller

Now HERE is an eye-opening Platinum post, by Platinum Member Joel Scheller for all you other Platinum members to chew on.     What do you think? Remember: you too can offer a guest post -- with the chance of it being voted to be published on the entire blog.  It doesn't have to be erudite and massively learned: just anything you're thinking of about the Bible, Christianity, or, well, most anything else related.  If you don't know if what you have in mind is relevant, zap me a note to ask; if you know it is, write it and send it along! For now, well, check out this provocative one! *********************** What do you think about BBQing your children? When I look back at the raising of my two, fine sons I remember times when the option was probably not off the table. But in all seriousness, there is nothing more repulsive to people than to think of such a thing. Certainly, a believer in the God of our bible would find such a notion [...]

2022-10-06T17:29:43-04:00October 10th, 2022|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

When Did Jesus Die? Dating Jesus’ Death by the Earthquake

Finally, a scientific dating of Jesus' death.  I was trolling through old posts and came across this one.  Whoa!  Really? ****************************** Geologists claim now that they have established the date of Jesus’ death. It was April 3, 33 CE. Here was the headline: Jesus 'died on Friday, April 3, 33AD', claim researchers, who tie earthquake data with the gospels to find the date For those who don’t know, the date of Jesus’ death has long been in dispute. The reality is, we are not sure when Jesus was executed (i.e., what year). It almost certainly happened during a Passover feast during the reign of Pontius Pilate as the Prefect of Judea. His rule lasted between 26-36 CE. All of our early Gospel accounts agree that the crucifixion happened on a Friday. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, this Friday was the day after the Passover meal was eaten and so, technically, it was still “Passover Day (see Mark 14:12). According to John the Friday was the day before it was eaten – on the day [...]

2022-09-26T10:38:04-04:00October 9th, 2022|Canonical Gospels, Historical Jesus, Religion in the News|

Would I Be Personally Upset if the Mythicists Were Right (That Jesus Never Existed)?

Ever since I wrote my book Did Jesus Exist (where I argue that, well, yeah--whatever else you say about him, however much legend you think is in the Gospels, there certainly was a historical figure, Jesus), I have had people ask me if I have an axe to grind on this one or if it would be personally painful or professional ruinous to admit that the "mythicists" -- those who claim that Jesus is a *complete* myth (never existed) were right. I don’t address this in the book, and I think it is a terrific question! The reason I do is this. I think every historian of religion who makes a case for one thing or another needs to be queried: what is at stake for you in the matter? Did Jesus Exist, Historically? For example, I have participated a number of public debates with conservative evangelical Christian scholars who have wanted to insist that they can PROVE, historically, that Jesus was raised from the dead. Now I should state with vigor and emphasis – [...]

2022-10-21T12:42:15-04:00October 8th, 2022|Historical Jesus, Mythicism, Reader’s Questions|

A Major Forgery in the Hebrew Bible? Guest Post by Platinum Member Dennis Folds

Members of the blog at the Platinum level have the opportunity to publish posts (just) for other Platinums, and after a number of these appear, the members vote on which should be posted on the blog itself.  Here is the most recent winner, an insightful and intriguing Platinum guest post by Dennis Folds.  Many of you on the blog are interested in Christian pseudepigrapha (= forgeries), especially those in the New Testament.  But what about the Old Testament?  Now *here* is a bold thesis!  Read it and remark! Being allowed to publish these posts is a very nice perk of the Platinum level of membership.  Another is that I do a a special platinum webinar every three months.   Are you interested?  Check out the various membership tiers and the perks that come with them all:  Register - The Bart Ehrman Blog. And now, check out the post! ****************************** Jeremiah Versus the Deuteronomist Forger   Dennis J. Folds, Ph.D. Given the interest in potential forgeries of NT books and other early Christian writings, I’d like to [...]

2022-10-11T10:28:32-04:00October 6th, 2022|Forgery in Antiquity, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

What Serious Research Projects Can Undergraduates Do in Early Christianity?

Here I continue to discuss some of the things professors in the humanities do in research universities -- in part.  I'm telling this from just my own perspective, but I'd say that most of what I say could be said by nearly anyone in a similar position.  This is how I explained this aspect of it before. ****************************** In addition to my regular teaching, I often get asked to direct Independent studies – where an undergraduate student will pursue a research project of his or her own choosing, something that normally is not taught in a regular class that we offer – and senior honors theses. I rarely am able to do an Independent Study, I’m sorry to say, as I have so many other demands on my time. But some of my colleagues are able to do several a year. I do occasionally direct honors theses, though, especially when a student looks especially promising as someone who may be able to go on and do graduate work in the field. The honors thesis is [...]

2022-09-25T16:14:41-04:00October 5th, 2022|Teaching Christianity|

What’s It Like to Teach at a Research University?

I continue here with my reflections on what a research scholar at a research university actually *does*.  This post covers the most important part of the work.  The main job of a professor, of course, is to teach. (!) Different colleges and universities have different requirements and expectations for their faculty. At many small colleges, professors teach four or even five courses a semester. Rarely can a person teach that much and still produce substantial (or much of any!) research, so that professors in those contexts are usually handicapped when it comes to publishing scholarship in the form of books and articles.  But many of them are in the job because they mainly LOVE teaching.   So do I.  But I'm in a different situation. Large research universities expect their professors to be at the cutting edge of scholarship, and so the teaching requirements are lighter (since the research demands are so much heavier). Faculty in research schools can never get tenure or promotion (or raises!) if they do not regularly and extensively publish in their [...]

2022-10-07T10:58:52-04:00October 4th, 2022|Bart's Critics, Teaching Christianity|

Is Christianity Responsible for Gender Equality and Consent?

Is the reason women are treated better in today's society than virtually any time in human history (as often bad as it is now, oh boy was it worse in, say, 1950, or 950, or 50), because of the beneficent influence of true Christianity?   That is the thesis of the recent work of an evangelical Christian named Glenn Schriver, and I had a remote debate with him about it.  You can watch it here. It appeared on one of my favorite interview programs in the world (literally, since it's in London), Unbelievable hosted by Justin Brierley.  Oh boy, that program regularly interesting.  Every week Justin regularly sets up discussions/debates, often between a well-educated evangelical Christian spokesperson and a decidedly non-evangelical / non-Christian -- e.g., well, people like me. Justin is a terrific interviewer / moderator (he himself is a Christian interested in apologetics). I've done his show a bunch of times, and it's always interesting.  Check out the webpage: https: This particular back and forth happened a couple of months ago.  I must admit, [...]

How Useful Are Our Earliest New Testament Manuscripts?

It is interesting that as recently as twenty years ago almost *no one* outside a small cohort of textual geeks (like me) had much interest at all in the actual manuscripts of the New Testament.  Even the majority of NT scholars (a very *large* majority) just weren't interested.  And most non-NT scholars had never heard that there was even an issue / problem.  That has changed a lot.  Now it's something people seem to want to talk to me about all the time. I've long thought about the issues that are involved (starting when I was 17!  Seriously).  Here are some reflections that I made some time ago, which I ran across again recently and thought summed up one of the big problems rather neatly. ****************************** It’s a little hard to get one’s mind around the irony of our early manuscripts (the term means: "hand-written copies," i.e., *all* the copies before the invention of printing).  To reconstruct the “original” text of the New Testament – by which, for my purposes here, I mean the text [...]

2022-09-18T16:18:59-04:00October 1st, 2022|New Testament Manuscripts|
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